Some friends and I were discussing the whole teen “I’m in love!” thing. My oldest just turned 13 and my middle will be 12 soon. I decided to have a chat with them before they enter this ‘love’ phase.
Let me preface this with the fact that we are a Christian home and we’ve been careful with what our kids watch and what our girls wear. We have cable, but they do not watch what most kids their age are watching. Right now, the kids are loving Lost in Space. We are parents who are actively doing all we can to preserve youthful innocence. That being said, I’ve also spoken with my oldest two about sex and related issues (at an appropriate level) on multiple occasions. I want to keep them innocent, and part of that is to not have them too naive about things and be taken advantage of through lack of knowledge.
I wanted to address teen love before it becomes an issue. I wanted the girls to know that when a teen says they are in love, the feelings are real, but they may not actually be in love. They might just really like the guy, they may be at the beginnings of love – even the love of their life, or they could truly be fully in love. The fact is that they won’t know which of these it is, because it will simply be that they are having the strongest feelings they’ve ever had for a non-family member. I warned them that I hope to never say to them “You don’t know what love is”, but if we’re in a heated conversation, it could slip out. I’m human.
Recently, we were teasing the girls that they can’t date until they’re 35. DD2 asked, “Don’t you have to date someone to know if you want to marry them?” I truthfully answered, “No, you don’t. You simply have to have taken the time to get to know them really well.” DH and I didn’t actually “date” that much before becoming engaged. I was scared of commitment and kept him at arm’s length, in the friend zone. As a result, we spent a lot of time talking and became best friends before love took over. (18th anniversary is this summer)
I brought this up and talked with the girls about the commitment involved in marriage. You make the decision to love your spouse every day. If we didn’t, the first time our spouses annoyed us, we’d be out the door. I’ve explained to my kids that they will annoy their spouses, and their spouses will annoy them. That’s the fact of living in the same space. If you’re marriage doesn’t have a firm foundation, it won’t last the speed bumps. (Finances, kids, etc.)
So why did I lay all of this on such young shoulders? Because I need to communicate with my kids way more than my parents, Mom in particular, did with me, which was almost none. I want the groundwork laid when that first crush rolls around. They know they’re too young to date, although many around them are. They know that dating is something done when you’re thinking about marriage. They know that we expect their wedding gown to be legitimately white. I want them to know they can come to me with questions and concerns.
I’ve also pointed out to my girls that all of the “Thou shalt nots” of the Bible can seem to be controlling and oppressive to some, but they are actually a plan to keep us safe. Waiting for marriage to have sex protects you and your spouse from numerous diseases (some deadly), you can’t become pregnant if you’re not having sex, and there is a lot of emotional hurt and baggage involved in pre-marital activities. I’ve seen it in friends who became Christians in their late teens/early 20’s, and who also didn’t have parents looking out for them.
I’m not sharing this here to say, “Look what a great parent I am!”. (I have a lot of faults!) I just wanted to get others thinking about the preventative talks which the modern world doesn’t feel are needed. In fact, the modern world encourages a lot of harmful thinking and behavior, and I think there are parents who are loving and well meaning who haven’t seen it because it’s crept in stealthily. You know your own family best.